Ethical Society's Leader Keeps Following Quest

Article excerpt

The questing spirit that took John Hoad from Methodist minister to full-time clinical counselor to leader of the Ethical Society of St. Louis has moved him once again.

Hoad, 66, retired June 30, after nearly 14 years with the Ethical Society, to do pastoral counseling. He says that for the time being, he will stay in the St. Louis area, where he also hopes to give talks on ethics.

Hoad is making the move, he says, because "both I and the Ethical Society needed a break to try to do something else."

But the change probably has just as much to do with Hoad's character. He loves counseling and he has spiritual wanderlust.

Born and reared in Barbados, Hoad studied science at college in Trinidad but later served as pastor of Methodist churches in the West Indies. In the late 1960s, he served as president of a Protestant seminary, the United Theological College of the West Indies, in Trinidad.

In 1972, Hoad left Barbados to attend Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., where he got a doctorate in theology and counseling. He then worked as a counselor and clinical supervisor at a counseling agency run by Princeton Township, until he and his wife, Karen, came to St. Louis in 1980.

Early on, he stopped believing in Christianity and embraced "humanism," a philosophy holding that human beings are dignified, rational and sources of truth and right.

Hoad is now a religious humanist, someone "open to the possibilities within the universe of finding that there is a force that is with us," he said.

He concedes that he felt a sense of loss when he switched from Christian faith to a philosophy based on ethics but ambiguous about the Divine. " `What a friend we have in Jesus' - that's a very comforting thought when you're going through a time of trial," Hoad said. "So how do you go from comfort to ambiguity? That is the trial of one's faith."

But in the ambiguity, Hoad said, he discovered "a freedom to explore the edges of the universe in a way that isn't always possible in religion."

The Ethical Society, at 9001 Clayton Road in Ladue, is one of 20 born of the 128-year-old Ethical Culture movement, which is dedicated to the ethical improvement of society and individuals. …